Frances Winston reviews Toy Story 4, and finds it a surprisingly fresh addition to the Toy Story franchise
Directed by: Josh Cooley – Starring the voices of: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Madeleine McGraw, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki, Jay Hernandez, Lori Alan, Joan Cusack
It’s hard to believe that it is nearly a quarter of a century since we met the characters of Woody and Buzz Lightyear, in the first Toy Story movie. Although it is quite common now, at the time it was the first animated feature created by CGI. Aside from the technological breakthroughs it heralded, the movie really captured the zeitgeist, appealing to both young and old alike, who loved the idea that toys came to life when their child – in this case a boy named Andy – wasn’t looking.
Usually by the fourth sequel, a franchise is really running out of steam, but this one has been eagerly anticipated. Despite nine-years gap between the last movie and Toy Story 4, people haven’t lost any affection for the characters, and obviously want to see if the story does them justice.
To be honest, I felt that Toy Story 3 wrapped up the tale pretty well. I didn’t really think there was a need for a fourth instalment. (Spoiler alert if you haven’t seen it) when Andy passed the baton to young Bonnie, giving her all his treasured playthings, it felt like a perfect ending, so I wasn’t sure where they could go with Toy Story 4.
Woody and the toys have settled into life with Bonnie, but when she starts Kindergarten, they worry about her. Wanting to ensure she is OK, Woody hides in her backpack, and his fears are confirmed when she becomes shy and withdrawn round the other children.
However, she cheers up when she makes a new toy out of a Spork and calls it Forky. To Woody’s astonishment, Forky comes to life now that he is a toy, and has an identity crisis, as he believes he’s trash. But now that he is Bonnie’s favourite toy, Woody has to ensure that he thinks like a toy. Confused, Forky runs away, and Woody goes after him, leading them to an antique store containing old and valuable toys – all of whom want out of their mundane existence sitting on a shelf.
So yet again, Woody must rescue his friend, and help other random playthings, while also reuniting with Bo Peep, who is now a renegade ‘lost toy’, and trying to get back to Bonnie once and for all.
Yep, that’s a whole lot of plot for a 100-minute movie. But the Toy Story franchise have always been ambitious. The focus here is very much on Woody’s story, and although the other characters do get a look in, the story arc is his. Tom Hanks is back as the voice of Woody of course, and with all of the beloved voice-cast returning, it is almost like putting on a pair of old comfy slippers.
As you would expect, the animation is top-notch. Pixar never fails to impress, and as usual, Toy Story 4 looks absolutely stunning. They manage to play with light and shade fabulously, and at times, you do almost forget that you are watching an animation.
The story follows the tried and tested formula of toys trying to rescue other toys, and get back to their child. However, Toy Story 4 never feels like déjà vu. Somehow – even after so many movies and shorts – the writers still manage to keep it fresh.
The other characters could have had more screen-time, but aside from this, fans of the franchise should find Toy Story 4 a satisfying conclusion to the saga.
It is well paced, will appeal to both adults and LOs, and is 100 minutes of pure escapism. There is an underlying assumption that you are already familiar with these characters, and if you have never seen a Toy Story movie before, going into Toy Story 4 you may want to brush up on that, but this aside, Toy Story 4 will warm the cockles of even the most cynical viewer.
And no doubt make Disney a fortune from the merchandising.
In Cinemas June 21st! Trailer below: